Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mind Games: Starting Off Dark

In reading through Mind Games, I'm reminded of the fact that most of PSI are either victims or horrible opportunists.  The former are generally pitiful in some respect, the latter truly reprehensible.  In other words, it's a terrific villainous organization. Case in point, our first character...

Deuce is a young woman named Angela Baker.  She was born in Australia and lived there until her powers manifested at puberty.  Labeled a freak, with her family in hiding from the press, her parents shipped her off to the Parapsychological Studies Institute, never to return.

PSI's scientists discovered her powers were a manifestation of her psyche.  Under stress, a shadowy creature emerges from her, leaving her physical body unconscious.  This shadow form was composed of her hatred and fear.  Dr. Poe bullied her into submission and turned her into a weapon for PSI's use.  Dubbing her "Deuce," he keeps her on a short leash, playing on her fear of what PSI might do to her family.

Powers-wise, Deuce is no heavyweight (272 points), but her power combination makes her fairly hard to take on in a fair fight.  Because her shadow form manifests from her unconscious body, PSI's standard procedure for deploying it is to bring Angela near where she's needed, then force her to manifest the shadow form.  The shadow form is basically a Flying, Desolid, Ego Attack, so unless you can affect her shadow form or bring a mental attack to the party, you don't have much chance of hurting her.  And if you do, the shadow form dissipates, leaving the injured and unconscious Angela wherever PSI has her stashed.  So, she's pretty darned difficult to capture.

In a campaign, she's a great character to show how horrible PSI is, should her origin get out.  Perhaps her family contacts the heroes to try and rescue her.  While she's committed criminal acts, how much of that was by her own volition?  Would their presence be enough to turn her away from PSI?  Alternatively, what if in her sleep, her inner good manifests in a different form.  Suddenly, the heroes find themselves investigating a mysterious glowing figure whose dispensing justice and vanishing mysteriously (I'd call her Ace, but that's your business).

Anyway, she's a pretty cool character.  Good story bits, and an interesting build.  Next time, we get a major creep...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mind Games: The Gadgets!

Yeah, I know I was going to start right in on the characters, but I think the gadget section bears more attention than a brief mention.  Mind Games takes the time to detail equipment carried by PSI villains, and - more importantly - the PSI Guard, their cadre of agents.  Some of the equipment is fairly prosaic (Kevlar vests), but we get some pretty crazy stuff, and if you ran an all-mentalists game, or one that focuses heavily on PSI, I could see an arms race of sorts cropping up as the good guys try to develop tech to counter PSI's.

First up are the Psiphon Grenades.  These are gas grenades that suppress the victim's willpower (EGO Drain).  Officially, these are used primarily in the kidnapping of potential targets for PSI "recruitment," but I could see a crew of agents supporting some PSI villains using them to soften up the heroes.  They're particularly effective against enemy mentalists, since Life Support and Power Defense aren't typically high priorities for that power profile.

Next up are their Energy Pistols.  Nothing particularly exciting about these: just a Multipower that shifts between an RKA and a NND.  They're a useful enough weapon for an agent whose not expecting superpowered opposition, but nothing scary.

The Psi-Visors are pretty cool.  They're mirrorshades that allow UV vision, along with a decent amount of Mental Defense. The Mental Defense technology shows up in a couple of the villains' write-ups, as personal Foci.  There's also a version of this gadget PSI hands out to potentially untrustworthy allies.  It scans the wearer constantly for signs of betrayal and triggers a nasty little killing attack should they surface.

Paralysis Webs are just plain nasty.  It's just a one-shot Entangle, but it's got that lovely "Entangle Takes No Damage" Advantage.  Bloody annoying.  It's also part of the PSI Guard "Capture Kit."

But how does PSI find the mentalists in order to recruit capture them, you ask?  Why with PSI-Scanners, of course.  A handy-dandy detection array.  Sort of like a miniature Cerebro, but for Mental Powers.

(It's worth noting that PSI are kind of like the evil mentalist version of the X-Men.  Of course, they're less nice when it comes to recruiting.  But it would be very easy to slot them in as a group of oppressed "freedom fighters" using whatever means necessary to protect their own.)

The last two pieces of tech are used in unison:  First up is the Teleportation Platform.  This sucker is pretty much what it says on the tin: a medium-range (1.8 km) mass teleportation device (it can handle up to eight people at a time).  PSI recovered it from a government installation that was examining a crashed alien spacecraft).  The platform is immense and heavy; PSI keeps it in a moving van in order to transport it.  It's also effectively one-way, however their in-house technical genius (Brad "Gizmo" Richards) developed a means of overcoming this limitation: the Panic Rings.

These rings communicate with the Teleportation Platform, allowing the wearer to return teleport to it.  The ring is a 38 point OIF and is worn by every PSI villain.  It's costly, but entirely worthwhile, as it allows PSI to hit and vanish quickly.  I could see acquiring one of these rings as a major plotline in campaign featuring PSI.  Perhaps a heroic gadgeteer could find the the rings use to communicate to the platform, allowing the heroes to find it, or prevent them from returning to their getaway point.

So, that's PSI's tech.  Cool stuff, IMO.  Next time, we'll get into characters, I promise.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Surprise Acquisition

As you might have gathered, I own a lot of 4th edition stuff for Champions.  Most of it had been relegated to storage after I adopted 5th edition, and when I started pulling things out after the Classic Enemies project got me fired up, I discovered something truly awful: I can't find my original BBB.  I've got a copy of Champions Deluxe, which, to be fair has all the errata included and a useful index, but it also has Frostburn instead of Icicle, and that terrible illustration for Powerhouse.  Those may seem to be minor inconveniences to you, and they are.  But I really hate losing things I should have, as my garage expedition to find my non-missing copy of Different Worlds #30 should amply illustrate.

Anyway, this evening I happened into my local Half-Price Books and took my usual quick glance at the RPG section.  Staring back at me from all the D&D 4e books, was this:

It's the paperback version of the BBB, which I'd forgotten they even made.  It's a bit worn, but entirely intact.  And now my collection is a bit moreso as well.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

D&D Challenge: Favorite Edition Wars

Late, but by my clock, I still have half an hour

Today's topic is "Favorite Edition."

My sentimental favorite is AD&D 2e.  The one I've played the most is 3.5/Pathfinder, followed by 4e.

I really like the feel of 5e, but that's because it reminds me of the 2e experience.

And that's not even getting to the older stuff.  BECMI and the Rules Compendium are awesome.

But probably 2e.

Presenting, MIND GAMES

Alright, enough procrastinating, let's get on with the show here.  It's time to get back on track.

Scott Heine's Mind Games (product #402) was published in 1989, as part of the initial wave of support for Champions 4e (in fact, immediately after the GM's Screen). While it's not exclusively a one-man show, it was both written and illustrated by Scott Heine (who wrote probably my favorite 3e adventure, "To Serve and Protect").  The cover is credited to someone named Spyder. 

Billed as "An Organization Book for Champions," Mind Games focuses on PSI, the Parapsychological Studies Institute, a villainous organization consisting entirely of mentalists. It packs a ton of information into its 48 pages, providing a rationale for mental powers, a history of PSI, an overview of its current organization and operations, most of a page on group combat tactics, and three pages devoted to running PSI and a mentalist-focused campaign.  And that's just the first ten pages!

The Equipment and Headquarters chapter provides us with eight gadgets, a vehicle, a dedicated computer, and a sample base (with map). It's not fancy, but it's a terrific time-saver for a GM.

After that, we roll into characters.  Mind Games provides full write-ups of thirteen villains, along with another six "students," and PSI's founder, Dr. Sebastian Poe. We'll be covering them all in the coming days.

The book closes out with two mini-adventures (or full adventures, if you're me) and three adventure seeds.  More on those in a later entry.

So, that's a preview of the coming days and weeks.  Hopefully, it'll go as well as the last one.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

That Challenge Thing, Day Whatever...

I'm not making as much headway on the whole Mind Games thing as I'd like.  We had a tropical storm hit the area, which meant missing a day's work, which meant rejiggering my work to deal with it.  Also, my son started an internship at my office, which is really cool, but it also means my morning and evening drive times (when I tended to think about what I had to say on CE) are no longer exclusively my own.

Anyway, here's today's D&D Challenge entry.  It's less taxing.

Day Six: Favorite Deity...

Hmmm...I guess Elminster would be a crass answer, and honestly, I don't really care for the old goat.

I really don't have a favorite D&D deity to be honest.  I tend to pick them based on the needs of my characters.  My favorite gaming gods are all over in the Gloranthan pantheon (RuneQuest or HeroQuest).  If that counts, Humakt. Or the Storm Bull.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Favorite Die

It's Monday.  I haven't slept well in days.  I'm exhausted.  You've been forewarned.

My absolute favorite die isn't actually older than you.  It's an opaque green 20-sider with white numbers (probably Chessex). It's just like all the rest in the basket of d20s that Green Ronin give out at their booth at GenCon, but this one was handed to me by Steve Kenson.

It's worth noting that I like this die enough to use it even though it does not conform with my usual superstitions.  Normally, for any game that requires polyhedral dice, I have the following requirements:

Transparent Green with white numbers.
All must be an identical shade of dark green.
All dice of a type must be identical (size, number style, etc.)
These dice reside in a black suede dicebag my younger brother got me for xmas when I was eighteen or nineteen.

Should one get lost or the dice no longer suit me, I replace the entire set.  Thus has it always been.  For the last 33-34 years, anyway.

So, there ya go.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

My Favorite Place

I can't help but notice that my D&D Thirty-Day Challenge posts pass by without comment.  I'm not entirely surprised, honestly.  For those of you wanting more classic Champions content, fear not! I'll be taking on a new product later this week.

Today's topic is my favorite game world.  For that, I have to no further than my computer wallpaper: an enormous map of Faerun.

Yes, I'm an elf-loving, paladin-playing Forgotten Realms fanboy.  Deal with it.

To be honest, I hold Greyhawk in very nearly equal esteem, but the Realms are my fantasy comfort food.  I got in on them at the ground level with the original Grey Box, and that's still my favorite incarnation of the setting. It still feels open and dangerous and unpredictable, even after nearly thirty years of piled on canon.  Is it perfect?  Hardly.  But it's the setting I've had the most fun playing D&D in over the years, the one I'm most likely to return to in the future.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Classy Post

It's day three of my D&D 30-day challenge (yes, I know it's the 13th, I started late).  Today's topic:  Favorite PC Class.

This is another easy one.  The Paladin.  From a very early age, I was obsessed with knight and armour.  The first book I remember repeatedly checking out from the library was a kids book on the subject with lots of photographs.  I suspect I was the only fourth grader in my school whose parents had to disappoint by telling him they wouldn't buy him stuff to acid-etch metal.

(I was also the only kid in my Cub Scout pack to have proper heraldry painted on my shield for "Knights of the Round Table" night.)

Early in my D&D career, the Paladin seemed like the best thing ever because he was so very hard to roll up.  Plus, he got a magic horse and could wield a holy sword.  How awesome is that?  Sure, there's the whole Lawful Good thing, but it never really bothered me, to tell you the truth.

Then, I found a copy of Three Hearts and Three Lions, by Poul Anderson.  Have you read it?  It's in Gygax's "Appendix N" and I'm not exaggerating in the least when I say it is Patient Zero of the D&D Paladin.  Pretty much everything Sir Holger has going for him in the novel is there in the class abilities.  It's well worth your time.

But, I digress.  Point is, I like the stereotype.  I like the heavily armored warrior for good.  I like the high charisma enemy of evil.  And I like warhorses too, for that matter.  It's a pity they're so marginalized in later versions of the game.I'm not as keen the lightening of alignment restrictions in 4e and 5e, but that's pretty easy for a GM to handwave.  Personally, I think Paladins should have special restrictions.  Otherwise, they're just fancy Clerics.

I've played more than my share of Paladins in my time.  My most successful was a guy named Valentyn, who I'll tell you about in greater detail in a later post.  If I get another chance, I'd like to play a character based on this illustration from the new PHB:

Tell me this isn't a Paladin.  I dare you.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The D&D Thirty Day Challenge: Day Two

Today's topic is "Favorite PC Race," which is pretty much a no-brainer for me.  I'm a sucker for elves, and have been since my first read-through of The Hobbit when I was thirteen.  Or maybe when I was nine and discovered "Star Trek" (Vulcans are totally space elves).

Now, I am the first to note that elves have, on occasion, been terribly, terribly misused in D&D (see: "The Complete Book of Elves").  The literary traditions of elves can run counter to good game mechanics, and sometimes the traditions won out.We ended up with a lot of garbage that made elves too special.

And don't even get me started on the whole Drow problem.

Fortunately, the later editions of the game took this to heart, and elves are no more powerful than any other race.

My D&D career took a long break between the early 90s and the mid-2000s.  I played a little, but not consistently.  In 2006, I joined a local group (mostly to get out of the house, but they turned into a great bunch of friends), and began playing D&D pretty much to the exclusion of everything else on a regular basis.  When I started, they were using 3.5, and have since transitioned to Pathfinder (with a brief side-visit to 4e, which just didn't work for that group).  From that group, I helped found another that plays 4e on occasional weekends.

During the various campaigns I've played in over the past decade, I've played three elven PCs:  a 3.5 Bard (Laurelyn Starmantle), a Pathfinder Witch (Dusk), and a 4e Swordmage (Rashid).  Rashid is actually an Eladrin or, as we pronounce it in the game, El-Adrin.  The El-Adrin are blue-skinned desert-dwellers whose culture maps to Arabian Knights Baghdad.  Rashid is a teleporting nightmare and a blast to play.

(And yes, he does look a bit like Nightcrawler from the X-Men comics.  Because my love of elfy-lookin' folks isn't just in the fantasy genre.)

So, there you go.  Elves.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Bonus Champions Material: Mechassassin vs Deathstroke!

Back when I wrote up Mechassassin, I compared him to DC's Deathstroke the Terminator.  Now that I'm done with the Classic Enemies read-through, I figured I'd finally compare the two in the only way that matters: their individual writeups.  First up, let's refresh:

Mechassassin is Craig Vandersnoot, once a rising star in the US Army.  Unfortunately, his extracurricular activities acting on behalf of organized crime groups came to light.  When he was drummed out of the service, KRONOS, a high-tech criminal enterprise, provided him with a high-tech battlesuit, which he conveniently escaped with when UNTIL raided them.

Since then, he's set himself up as a freelance bodyguard and assassin.  He particularly likes taking down superheroes, in order to prove his superiority.  He's a jerk.

Deathstroke the Terminator is Slade Wilson. Like Mechassassin, he started off in the military, but his origin is due to biomedical experimentation.  The mutations caused by the experiments granted him genius-level intellect, and augmented his already elite military skills with increased reflexes and senses. He's also responsible for one of my favorite comics arcs of all time: The Judas Contract.

So, how do they stack up?  Here's the tale of the tape:


STR  35
DEX 27
CON 40
INT 18
EGO 15
PRE 30
COM 14
PD 8
ED 8
REC 10
END 40

25 Points of Martial Arts (Maneuver-Based)
+3 DC with all attacks
Endurance Reserve
Wrist Slashers: 3d6 HKA +1 Stun Mult
Electric Pistol: 10d6 AP EB (not vs Resistant Defense) (6 charges)
Steel Cable:  6d6 Entangle
12d6 Explosion (3 charges)
4½d6 NND (Gas Attack) (2 charges)
Darkness 6” radius vs sight, sound, mental senses (3 charges)
Armor +12 PD and ED
Shield: Armor +12 PD and ED, Act 14-
Life Support: Self Contained
Hi-Range Radio Hearing
Floodlight: Change Environment, Radius
Amplifier:  Change Environment, Radius

Language: German (Fluent)
Science: Mechanical Engineering 12-
Security Systems 13-

STR 25
DEX 30
CON 28
INT 30
EGO 14
PRE 25
COM 20
PD 15
ED 15
REC 12
END 56

25 Points of Martial Arts (Strength-Based)
Sword: 3d6 HKA
Assault Rifle: 2d6 RKA, Selective Fire (20 charges)
Battle Stick: 4d6 RKA (1 charge)
Battle Stick: 7d6 EB (physical)
Frag Grenade: 5d6 RKA, Explosion (1 charge)
Smoke Grenade: 4” radius Darkness (1 charge)
Gas Grenade: 8d6 NND EB (1 charge)
Flash Grenade: 4d6 Flash (1 charge)
Armor: +12 PD and ED
Lack of Weakness
Ego Defense (11 pts)
Flash Defense (8 pts)
Swinging: 20”
Parabolic Hearing
Hi-Range Radio Hearing
Discriminatory Smell
Enhanced Vision
Enhanced Hearing

Acrobatics 15-
Stealth 15-
Disguise 15-
Security Systems 15-
Climbing 14-
Detective Work 15-
Computer Programming 15-
Luck 2d6
+4 Overall Levels

It's worth noting that Deathstroke comes in at 630 points by Champions II/III standards (and I think he's a little underpowered).  Mechassassin is 538, so he's already working from a deficit.  He's stronger than Slade, and can probably hit him harder, but Deathstroke is faster and harder to hit.  Deathstroke lacks Life Support, so Mechassassin's best bet would be to use his gas attack, except the best damage a 4½d6 NND can do is 27 Stun, which still comes in under Slade's CON, meaning he won't be stunned by it, allowing him to then put further hurt on Mr. Vandersnoot.

In short, it doesn't look good.  I'm sure there are permutations where Mechassassin wins (and I'm sure dedicated Champions players will find them), but my money is on Deathstroke.

Another Day, Another Challenge

While I'm far from done with reviewing classic Champions material, it has been the sole focus here at My Dice Are Older Than You for the past two months.  So, I think a little break is in order.  My friend Timothy Connolly from Benchleydale And Beyond suggested I tackle the D&D 30-Day Challenge.

I won't do this to the exclusion of anything else, so there is more Champions stuff coming, but I figure an occasional change of pace is good for the soul.

Day 1:  How You Got Started

Well, this is a story I've told many a time.  I started high school in 1977, utterly obsessed with Star Wars and The Hobbit, both of which had crashed on the shores of my awareness only a few months previous.  My third obsession was this new hobby I'd discovered called wargaming.  My school had a wargaming club that met before school, during lunch, and after classes on Fridays to play Avalon Hill and SPI games, among others. I cut my teeth on Battle of the Bulge, War at Sea, Panzer Leader, and Wurzburg.  There was also this other little game folks were crazy about called Melee (written by some nobody named Steve Jackson).  It was a man-to-man game of arena combat.  It was fast, bloody, and a ton of fun.  It also had a companion game called Wizard that included magic and supernatural beasties and it's still one of the best thinking mini-games ever designed.

I got hooked on these games.  Completely swallowed by them. They were so small and portable, you could play it almost anywhere.  Gameplay was so fast, you could easily get in three or four battles during lunch.  And your warriors and wizards, if they survived, gained experience that you could spend to make them better. Eventually, I had a warrior named Feahor the Fearless who could hit an opponent with a thrown axe from all the way across the arena with almost 100% certainty.  Because I was a fourteen year old munchkin.

But that wasn't all.  Metagaming (the publisher of Melee  and Wizard, collectively known as "The Fantasy Trip") published a companion for it called Death Test.  This was a dungeon crawl in the form of a programmed adventure.  The characters, auditioning for a job in the Imperial Guard, moved from monster-filled room to monster-filled room, killing things, gaining experience and gold bars.  There were even healing potions.  My friends and I played the hell out of Death Test.  We memorized Death Test.  We soloed Death Test. We got bored with Death Test.

Fortunately, around that point, Death Test II came out.  It was deadlier and more devious, but it didn't take long for us to plunder it.  At that point, it occurred to us we could make our own.  So we did, still using the base maps, but changing up the challenges.

So, yeah, me and my friends kind of invented RPGs all on our own. (KIDDING)

A few weeks went by and I was telling a friend at church about it.  Another kid overheard and said, "Are you talking about Dungeons & Dragons?"  I indicated no, but was curious, so he told me about it in sort of vague terms that didn't tell me a lot, but it sounded interesting.  I decided to give it a look.

Problem was, in my head, I confused TSR with SPI (a company I was much more familiar with), so I kept looking for it in the SPI stuff at the hobby shop.  Eventually, I decided I wasn't that interested in it in the first place.

Fast forward to the first day of Sophomore year, and my friend John comes to school with the Holmes Blue Box.  He let me borrow it, and I took it to my mom's office where she let me run off a copy on their rudimentary copy machine.  I've still got those super-delicate, greasy photocopies in a folder somewhere, as a memento of my past life as a pirate.

I devoured the rules and made it clear we had to try this.  John's dad was a teacher and had to stay late most days, so on a September afternoon in 1978, he and I and one more friend sat out on the patio outside the school cafeteria and braved the depths of John's dungeon.  I remember I had two characters: a fighter named Feahor and a thief named Theron (because I was imaginative that way). Theron died in the second room, but Feahor survived and came away with some treasure.

And that was it. I was hooked.  It's been nearly forty years, but I still remember the color of the sky and the hint of cool on the breeze.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Classic Enemies: Last, But Not Least

It seems like only yesterday I was making fun of The Ultimates, but now we find ourselves at the end.  Let's do it.

Utility, another George MacDonald villain, is our final bad guy.  He's a walking Focus Limitation.  His entire schtick is that he's convinced he's smarter than everyone else, and therefore, better than them -- superheroes included.  Given his overconfidence and poor social skills, he's practically the Sheldon Cooper of the supervillain set.

In many respects, he's Foxbat without the crazy.  All of Utility's equipment is more utilitarian, seemingly made up of "off-the-shelf" technology (for values of "off-the-shelf" found in a superhero universe, anyway).

I'll admit, I'm not usually too fond of characters that follow the "normal guy buys a bunch of military-grade stuff and is instantly able to go toe-to-toe with superhumans" schtick, but I do have a soft spot for Utility, if only because of the original Mark Williams illo for him in Enemies.

 I'm a total sucker for illustrations that double as schematics.  I loved all the engineering style drawings of tech in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, and I can't resist a schematic of Batman's utility belt or a cross-section of the Baxter Building.  So that drawing of Utility, listing out his foci sucked me in right away.

I also dig the fact that, judging from his name (William Chow), he's Asian-American, but he doesn't fall into the generic martial artist trap.  I mean, he is a martial artist, but it's not his primary thing.  It's just another aspect of his off-the-shelf style.

In Classic Enemies, he got a bit of an upgrade in the form of a Gadget Pool (something not invented when he first saw print).  It's a reasonable upgrade that turns him from an interesting mercenary villain into a proper threat, provided he has time to prepare.  I've used him in virtually every campaign, most recently in my last 5e game, where a very prepared Utility managed to take down about 800 points worth of novice superheroes by knowing what he was facing and preparing accordingly.  In that, he's a great character to use to teach heroes teamwork and preparedness of their own.

 And, with that, we're done with Classic Enemies.

I started this project over two months ago (back on April 3rd).  I needed something to channel my thinking about gaming because I had to stop playing with my Tuesday night crew.  By my count, this is the thirty fourth and final character piece, though I may do one or two little follow-ups.  In the past two months, I've messed around with the format, shared my thoughts here, on Google+, Facebook, and RPGnet, spawning some really terrific conversation and an actual Hero System discussion spin-off thread over on the Purple Place.  I've received comments and compliments from the creators of a number of these characters, and re-thought my own opinions of a few of them.  It's been good therapy for me, and reminded me of why I played virtually nothing but Champions for nearly two decades.

I've already decided to continue blogging my read-throughs of classic Champions material.  The next is going to be a short one, then I may try tackling one of the bigger sourcebooks.  We'll see.  For now, I hope you've enjoyed this as much as I've enjoyed doing it.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Classic Enemies: All Hail The Elder Worm

I meant to do this one yesterday, but got hung up doing laundry and then got to actually do some face-to-face gaming (D&D, but it was a good time).  Also, I found my copy of Different Worlds #30!  Embarrassingly enough, it was stuck in a stack of 1st-3rd edition stuff on my bookshelf all along, so my excursion into the garage was completely unnecessary.  I still owe people a Mechassassin/Deathstroke compare/contrast, so maybe that'll be my first follow-up.

Anyway, tonight we'll take a look at Slug, a creation of Kevin Dinapoli.  While his origin and stats changed very little between his first appearance in Enemies II and Classic Enemies, he underwent a remarkable visual makeover.  Originally, he was a pretty buff dude, considering his 10 STR.

1982 (Mark Williams)

For Classic Enemies, Patrick Zircher changed things up quite a bit: he's stouter, more tentacle-y, and generally a lot more alien and squidgy.  It's one of the biggest departures made in the appearance of a character from its original appearance, and it's just terrific.

So, let's talk about this dude.  He was an Egyptologist who encountered a strange gem in a tomb.  It transformed him into a member of the race of the Elder Worm, your standard-issue Lovecraftian horror from beyond the stars.  His powers: Lots of nasty psionic/mystical stuff channeled through that gem and his ankh.  Also, turning people into Elder Worms, like you do.  This last one was added for CE, as Transformation wasn't part of the rules when Enemies II came out.

The great thing about Slug is that he can slot in to just about any mystical adventure, either as the big bad or as a handy helper.  The first time I used him was running "Terror in the Treasures," a scenario in Adventurers' Club #3.  It's a clever little treasure grab that I've recycled probably a half-dozen times in the past 32 years.

Probably my favorite Slug story never saw the light of play.  Some years ago, I put some work into a setting called "Darkness Falls" that would be a magic-heavy, dark-ish supers game. I mean, it's in the name of the town, right?  In that setting, the race of the Elder Worm could cloak themselves in human form.  They infiltrated a local religious community, akin to the Mennonites or Amish, and preyed on tourists who came to see their "quaint" ways and purchase their "rustic" crafts.  The big reveal would've been glorious.

So, do you have any adventures that you never got to use?  Feel free to comment below or over on the RPGnet thread.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Classic Enemies: One More Miscellany

Tonight, I'm going to bring another three villains who don't quite merit their own entries (IMO), leaving us with just a couple solos to wrap things up.  Who knows? I may wrap things up this weekend.

Our first contestant is Scott Bennie's Timemaster who, as best as I can tell, first appeared in "Nova," a scenario published in Adventurer's Club #4, which featured him and the rest of his Alliance of Supervillains (Firewing, Avar-7, Radium, Mind Slayer, and Herculan), fighting Eurostar(!), with the heroes along for the ride. Not for the faint-hearted.

Timemaster comes from the future. A future, anyway.  As you might guess, he's a time-traveler.  His name was Tymon Mazurich, but now he goes by the relatively less unsubtle Timothy Masters.  Anyway, TM hates his world government, so he went back in time to overthrow it.  His writeup in CE seems to have a gap: the details are kind of vague somewhere between traveling to the past and getting stranded there.  In his AC writeup, the experience of time travel drove him nuts.  Anyway, he's stuck here and doing the villain thing to learn about superheroes so he can find the right ones to liberate his era.

Or something like that.  I'll be honest with you: I'm not fond of time travel stories, as a rule, and Timemaster's writeup heavily relies on Drains to accomplish his time manipulation powers, which is clumsy at best.  He's a good example of a neat idea that the Champions rules don't really support all that well.  The Hero System just doesn't do absolutes very well, and this is a character that needs some absolutes in order to function as conceived.

From a time-traveling genius, we turn our attention to a smart bruiser.  Thunderbolt (created by Andrew Robinson) has a bit in common with Beamline, in that he's another scientist who had a lab accident.  This one transformed Dr. Howard Reeves into a human dynamo, a force of living lightning.  Stats-wise, he's a potent and versatile energy projector, with decent defenses and superhuman strength.  While he doesn't have a genius-level intellect, he's no dummy and he's actually got a decent array of non-combat skills (at least as characters in this book go).

From a campaign standpoint, Thunderbolt makes a great mercenary villain. His power array allows him to slot into just about any ad hoc team, and his scientific skills means he might even be brought in as a "Technical Consultant" on a more delicate job.  In short, he's a great special guest, but not the sort of guy I'd build an entire adventure around.

Our final entrant tonight is Vibron, by George MacDonald.  He was a genius in the "Focused Sound Industry" before he had the inevitable accident that left his body in a constant vibrating state.  The experience left him with superpowers, but a massive anti-social streak, as he no longer believed himself fit for the company of normal humanity.  Not that this stops him from using his powers to steal stuff.

Powers-wise, he's kind of a low-rent Flash.  He can vibrate through stuff, and hit folks a lot (with the ever-broken Hand to Hand Attack power) and run fast (about 70 mph, if my math is close).  He's got Desolidication and a Force Field that he can put up at the same time, which is kind of novel, I suppose.  At 257 points, he's pretty much equal to a starting PC, so he's not a bad starter villain.

There's just one not-insurmountable problem. The whole isolated loner thing.  As written, Vibron doesn't play well with others, and he's not powerful enough to be a solo villain.  So, all-in-all, he's just not that useful, as-is.  Changing up his PsychLims a bit can fix that, at which point, he becomes a decent member of a robbery crew.

For those keeping track at home, we've got The Slug and Utility left.  I'll be tackling them in the next few days, and then I suppose I'll sum up.  There's been some interest in my tackling another 4e era book, and I think I'm going to do it, once I figure out which one.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Classic Enemies: Twaaaaang!

Sorry for the delays, folks.  I had a couple of problems this week, namely getting my car rear-ended.  I was already bummed about missing NTRPG Con, but now that I'm currently car-less, I guess I couldn't have gone anyway.  But, enough about me, let's talk about one of the most versatile villains in all of Classic Enemies.

Rainbow Archer, created by Nick Smith, easily possesses the largest and most diverse Multipower in the book: eleven slots.  Not only that, but she also illustrates how incredibly cost-effective a character built with lots of Power Limitations can be:  This eleven slot Multipower (Electrical Blast, Entangle, Sight Flash, Sonic Flash, Darkness, Penetrating Stun Blast, Knockout Gas, Explosion, Killing Attack, Affects Desolid, Invisible to Sight Attack), built with Obvious Accessible Focus and Charges on every slot, clocks in at a mere 52 points.  Which allows her a spectacular DEX of 35 and +5 Combat Levels (Yes, that translates to an OCV of 17), plus Find Weakness on an 11-.  If she were a player character, I'd probably veto her on the spot.  But as a much fun.

Especially given her flamboyant, free-wheeling personality.  Her motivation is straight up greed.  She was a star competitive archer whose reputation was ruined, so she decided to go into crime.  It's not deep, but it's easy to play with.  She's not a killer (even if she does sport a nasty RKA), and won't play nice with the bigger bads of the universe.  But she'll happily hire on for high-end robberies, where the sheer versatility of her quiver ensures she's got something on tap for just about any threat.

Also, her costume is great.  Robin Hood green hood and boots, over an iridescent bodysuit that changes colors depending on how the light hits it.  Heck, I'd probably use her even if I didn't like her powers.

Apart from the obvious hire arrow gambit, she can also serve as a foil for an archery-based hero.  Because of her competitive past, it's not hard to interpret her Overconfidence as a massive need to show she's the best.  And who better to show up than some do-gooder who thinks he's William Tell?  She made Orion the Hunter's life miserable for years in one of my early games.  Epic stuff.

Next time, I think I'll wrap up the few remaining miscellaneous baddies, leaving one or two big guns to finish up on.